Sunday, December 8, 2013

Should Tozer Have Remained Single?

When Mom was in the nursing home, I used my time commuting back and forth (and time alone cooking at home) to listen to the recording of Lyle Dorsett's biography of Aiden W. Tozer, A Passion for God.

Two quick comments on the biography before I move on to the main point of this blog post.

1. I wish the author had given a bit more description of Tozer's successes.  He describes Tozer as being popular and gifted, but he does not really make you like or connect with Tozer.  Tozer comes across as something of a theological nerd, an ascetic mystic, above and aloof.  There must have been something likeable or beneficial about Tozer's ministry or he would not have been so popular.
2. About Tozer's weaknesses and sinful tendencies, another review of the same book does a good job of summarizing them and I will not restate them here. Tim Challies' review is also good.

The question that I want to focus on is the biggest question that I was left with after this book was finished.  Would Tozer have been better off remaining single?  He loved to spend hours alone in prayer.  He loved giving sacrificially (about half of his not-too-high income, apparently).  Both of these habits did not endear him to his wife.  After his death and her remarriage to a Christian widower, she told someone, "I have never been happier in my life. Aiden (Tozer) loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me."

Tozer's reclusive tendencies also distanced him from his 7 children to some extent.  (Although all of them apparently followed him in the faith as Christians.)  Even with his congregations, Tozer was more prophet than pastor: he loved preaching and teaching but did not like one on one relational work such as pastoral visits.  He only agreed to take his final pastorate after the church promised that all he would have to do was preach twice a week; they hired another pastor to do everything else.

First Corinthians 7:32-33 (NASB) says:
"But I want you to be free from concern.  One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord, but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided."
Tozer seems to have failed to recognize how marriage should have changed his priorities.  If he had remained single, he could have spent those long hours in prayer and given those dollars away without neglecting family responsibilities.  On the other hand, his asceticism probably limited his pastoral effectiveness, and this would have happened (perhaps even more damagingly) even if he had not been married.  Marriage doubtless helped shave some of the rough edges off his personality and thus made him a better pastor than he would otherwise have been.  But if he was really cut out to be a prophet, perhaps he was also better off not being a pastor. 

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